Escape Artists

Escape Pod => Episode Comments => Topic started by: Russell Nash on February 08, 2009, 03:43:16 AM



Title: EP187: Summer in Paris, Light from the Sky
Post by: Russell Nash on February 08, 2009, 03:43:16 AM
EP187: Summer in Paris, Light from the Sky (http://escapepod.org/2009/02/07/ep187-summer-in-paris-light-from-the-sky/)

By Ken Scholes (http://kenscholes.com/).
Read by Alex Wilson (of Telltale Weekly (http://telltaleweekly.org/)).

Adolf Hitler came to Paris in June 1941 feeling the weight of his years in his legs and the taste of a dying dream in his mouth. He spent most of that first day walking up and down the Champs Elysées, working the stiffness out of his bones and muscles while he looked at the shops and the people. Some of the dull ache was from the wooden benches on the train from Hamburg; most of it was age. And beneath the discomfort of his body, his soul ached too.

He’d never been here before, he thought as the Parisians slipped past in the noon-time sun. He snorted at the revelation. A fine painter you are, he told himself.


Rated R. Contains sexual violence. Also may be offensive to some for historical reasons.


(http://escapepod.org/wp-images/podcast-mini4.gif)
Listen to this week’s Escape Pod! (http://media.rawvoice.com/escapepod/media.libsyn.com/media/escapepod/EP187_SummerInParis.mp3)


Title: Re: EP187: Summer in Paris, Light from the Sky
Post by: Russell Nash on February 08, 2009, 03:44:34 AM
Just listened to the warning while I was checking the post links.  That is one serious ass warning.  This is not an episode for the faint of heart.


Title: Re: EP187: Summer in Paris, Light from the Sky
Post by: Talia on February 08, 2009, 12:21:28 PM
Liked this alot, although perhaps not as much as "edward bear" (hard to top that one). In some ways Hitler was a talented man, and its interesting and worthy to speculate how the events of his life might have shaped him differently.  I got a kick out of Charles DeGaulle as the bar owner too.

I personally wasnt particularly shocked or affected by this. I donno.


Title: Re: EP187: Summer in Paris, Light from the Sky
Post by: FNH on February 08, 2009, 12:25:36 PM
A very interesting piece of alternate history.  I'm not sure that Hitler had to even be in there for the story to be as good as it was.  Of course including him, does draw you in.

I love that the French become the new Nazi's.  It goes to show the theory that any nations is susceptible to this kind of take over, I dont think the Germans are the only nation to ever fall into the trap.  Blue-coat/Brown-shirt is a nice turn around.

The characters in this story come through very nicely.


Title: Re: EP187: Summer in Paris, Light from the Sky
Post by: MacArthurBug on February 08, 2009, 01:15:08 PM
There are aspects of this story that struck me as amazingly facinating.  First and foremost although it drew strongly on name dropping (man!) it did not really need it to stand solid and spectacular as a well told story. Second, although at first I was a little humm, weirded out, but the Hitler aspect (after all, Hitler = evil) I really really adored the What if's presented. What if all that evil charisma had been turned toward good.  What if someone else took that mantle of evil over. What if things happned but they happned diffrent. Usually alternate history peices seem terrificaly clumsy taking these what ifs and fumbling them. This Alt hist struck a deep and meaningful chord in me.  I am a deep believer in the fact that there is the potantial for good in all human beings but the "even Hitler" aspect had never really hit home for me.

Just Fan freaking tastic.  I really missed EP and this is a strong comeback. Swing and a hit out of the park.


Title: Re: EP187: Summer in Paris, Light from the Sky
Post by: Schreiber on February 08, 2009, 02:22:56 PM
Maybe this is a generational thing or maybe listening to JC Hutchins prepared for the kind of leap Scholes asks for in this story, but I agree with Talia.  This isn't particularly shocking or offensive.  This Hitler isn't Hitler.  He just has the same genes as Hitler and roughly the same memories up to...er, up to the age of fourteen, at which point a parent apparently dies and the genetically identical individuals' lives take radically different directions.

<awkward pause>

But seriously.  A fun story.  I agree with Stephen too.  Alt history does get the short shrift too often and it's nice to see it on Escape Pod.


Title: Re: EP187: Summer in Paris, Light from the Sky
Post by: Poppydragon on February 08, 2009, 02:32:01 PM
This was definitely worth waiting for. I guess being neither Jewish nor French, there was never going to be much to offend me in it, but that said the story managed to handle the alternate history without being offensive (IMO) or gratuitous. I know the subject has been done before (Stephen Fry's Making History & Kim Newman's Bloody Red Barron spring to mind immediately) but I don't think I've ever come across one where Hitler is portrayed in such an alternative and positive way. I loved the portrayal of De Gaulle as a bar tender but (and my only negative) I felt the Hemmingway characteristion was a little cliched.


Title: Re: EP187: Summer in Paris, Light from the Sky
Post by: JoeFitz on February 08, 2009, 02:33:12 PM
UN-DER-STAND IT'S NEW-FUND-LAND!

Just a pet peeve. :)


Title: Re: EP187: Summer in Paris, Light from the Sky
Post by: alllie on February 08, 2009, 02:33:55 PM
This Hitler isn't Hitler.  He just has the same genes as Hitler and roughly the same memories up to...er, up to the age of fourteen, at which point a parent apparently dies and the genetically identical individuals' lives take radically different directions.

The story reminded me of reading Ananda Coomaraswamy’s Buddha and The Gospel of Buddhism and trying to understand what exactly is reincarnated in Buddhism. It’s not the memories or the personality or the consciousness or the soul. I couldn't accept that in Buddhism there was any continuity between a person and his reincarnated self.

In the same way I couldn't accept that the characters in this story were Hitler, Hemingway and Chaplin. They had their names but nothing else.

We are a product of our hereditary and environment. Because Adolf’s father changed, he changed how he treated his children. Because Adolf was treated differently he grew up to be a different person. It’s an argument for good parenting but I couldn’t accept that this Hitler was the same person as the Hitler we have come to know and hate. The most I could accept is that he might be Hitler’s twin with the same DNA but not the same environment, which made him a much different person. And since he wasn’t this timeline’s Hitler his story isn’t the story of a man who changed and took a different path but of a man who was always on a better path, who could no more have been evil Hitler than have been this timeline’s Tesla.

Still, it was an interesting story.


Title: Re: EP187: Summer in Paris, Light from the Sky
Post by: Russell Nash on February 08, 2009, 03:25:46 PM
OK, everyone's being to civil. 

I want a fight, Damn it!!

So what is it, nature or nurture?  Was being evil (FLoaBW) in his DNA or was it in his surroundings.  What would it have taken to have made him a different person?  How much would it have taken to have made him a great person?  Or were those versions never even possible?


Title: Re: EP187: Summer in Paris, Light from the Sky
Post by: Russell Nash on February 08, 2009, 03:36:10 PM
There will probably be a lot of discussion about Steve's announcements, so I started this thread here (http://forum.escapeartists.net/index.php?topic=2389.msg41604#msg41604).


Title: Re: EP187: Summer in Paris, Light from the Sky
Post by: JoeFitz on February 08, 2009, 03:37:12 PM
This story, while clearly crafted with a lot of thought, was very uneven for me. As a sub-genre, "alternate history" never really worked for me. Perhaps it's an "uncanny valley" type of think where I become more uneasy the closer the story becomes to what I consider authoritatively historical.

I believe that part of the problem is that alternate history, because of its explicit dissonance with reality, cries out that it is artificial. I'm taken out of the story and locked into a comparative reading. This leads me to focus on figuring out why the author changed detail X or Y.

It would seem to me that this story, if the character names were changed, would be fine. If the "Adolf Hitler" character was just some art student in Paris with a Prussian father, I don't think the story would lose much weight. The power of using the moniker undermines its utility. Sure, it's an intellectual curiosity to consider that JFK or MLK would have praised the character of the figure in this story.

On the other hand completely, the structural element of "modern" quotes mingled with the story worked well enough, but the Hitler moniker just loses its power.

A quote has been used a few times this week in my circle: genetics loads the gun, environment pulls the trigger. I think it was on Nova. The nature/nurture debate is not very interesting if it is just a search for yes/no answer. Personally, I favour the views of Jerome Kagan.

To be honest, I have a lot of ambivalence about WWII as a setting - whether historical or fictional (plus all of the degrees of historicity in between).

All in all, I'm sure it's a solid alternate history offering, from what I see above and understand. And please, don't take my comments as a criticism for the choice of an alternate history piece on EP. I have absolutely no objection to Escape Pod canvassing the full breadth of speculative fiction. I never would have listened/read this piece if it wasn't for Escape Pod and while it wasn't my cup of tea, it has made my anticipation for the next episode that much greater.

Also, great to hear your voice again, Mr. Eley.


Title: Re: EP187: Summer in Paris, Light from the Sky
Post by: Poppydragon on February 08, 2009, 03:39:12 PM
Great person = stop at Poland, at risk of being shouted down I think he could have got away with going into Poland providing he didn't go any further. Equally on the basis of the winner writing history, if he hadn't gone after Russia he would probably have been recorded by history as being great.

As for the nature / nurture debate, I'll probably go for nurture, but not necessarily by family, I think society is just as responsible or irresponsible for nurturing us and if society had taken action he would never have achieved his ultimate levels of behaviour, not because he didn't want to (he might have) but because he wasn't allowed to. Folk aren't born evil they become evil.


Title: Re: EP187: Summer in Paris, Light from the Sky
Post by: Raving_Lunatic on February 08, 2009, 03:46:06 PM
In the Nature/Nurture battle I always go for DNA counting as little as possible, but looking at a guy like Hitler I can't help but realise arguing down this line means that it's perfectly possible, given the right circumstances, for the people I love most to be this cruel.


Title: Re: EP187: Summer in Paris, Light from the Sky
Post by: TristanPEJ on February 08, 2009, 04:56:35 PM
I think this story is trying to convey the postmodern philosophy that a man is more of a product of his society and interactions than genes and bloodlines. This is shown in both Hitler's personality and growing antisemitism in Europe.


Title: Re: EP187: Summer in Paris, Light from the Sky
Post by: Schreiber on February 08, 2009, 05:56:28 PM
OK, everyone's being to civil. 

I want a fight, Damn it!!


Tell me about it.  I thought everyone would jump at my "Seventh Son" jab.  (For the record, Adolph Hitler was born in 1889 and Alois Hitler died in 1903, making Adolph fourteen years old when his father died -or ALMOST died in Scholes story.  Just like John Alpha!  I thought for sure someone was going to call me out on that one.) 

But maybe the reason why this story isn't provoking the kind of knock-down, drag-out fight that you're hoping for is that it is basically an optimistic take on human potential.  No one is inherently evil.  Even the most evil man who ever lived wasn't inherently evil.  He had the potential to do great things, to in fact oppose evil.  Like Menno Meyjes' film "Max," "Summer in Paris, Light from the Sky" characterizes Hitler as a human being responsible for his own choices.  And in my humble opinion, it's important that we remember him this way.  We're all Adolph Hitler, if we allow ourselves to be.  But by the same token we're also Scholes' version of Adolph Hitler.

Just my thoughts, anyway.


Title: Re: EP187: Summer in Paris, Light from the Sky
Post by: kumarei on February 08, 2009, 08:17:40 PM
Like most people, I didn't find much in this story to be offended by. Also like most people, I thought that the weakest part of the story was the flagrant use of historical characters. Hitler didn't bother me, since that was the point of the story, but every time another historical personage was mentioned, or a piece of alternate history was dropped, it seemed to be more for the sake of the alternate history tag than the narrative.

That said, I did like the story, and thought that it had a lot of strength.


Title: Re: EP187: Summer in Paris, Light from the Sky
Post by: bolddeceiver on February 08, 2009, 09:03:26 PM
I will admit, I wasn't listening closely enough to be sure on one point, which this comment hinges on, so sorry if this is irrelevant.  I didn't catch whether the Napoleon IV was a reinstated anscestor, or if it represented continuous rule since Napoleon Boneparte I.  If it's the latter, then the whole story falls apart.  The chances of any given person being conceived, even the moment of, are so very tiny.  If one's parents end up not getting jiggy with it that night, or even end up doing so a few minutes sooner or later, if she rolls over ten seconds earlier or later afterwards, really the tiniest change to the whole setup that might result in spermatazoan number 423365 getting in instead of spermatozoan number 423478 would tear it all apart.  Extend this to the chances of changes in the life stories of the parents, and the parents' parents, along with countless other factors, and the chances of there being an Adolf Hitler and an Ernest Hemmingway and a Charlie Chaplin and all the other big names who made cameos here are approximately nil, keep the change.  I just can't suspend disbelief enough to imagine that a pretty major change in European history decades before any of the key players were born would have failed to upset that balance.


Title: Re: EP187: Summer in Paris, Light from the Sky
Post by: Schreiber on February 08, 2009, 09:50:42 PM
The chances of any given person being conceived, even the moment of, are so very tiny.  If one's parents end up not getting jiggy with it that night, or even end up doing so a few minutes sooner or later, if she rolls over ten seconds earlier or later afterwards, really the tiniest change to the whole setup that might result in spermatazoan number 423365 getting in instead of spermatozoan number 423478 would tear it all apart.

I hear what you're saying bolddeceiver, and you're not wrong.  But can't we file this point under the same category as aliens speaking English, lightsabers knowing when to stop, time travel machines, and warp drive?  Steve talked about the "mundane" sci-fi movement awhile ago and I think I have to agree with him.  There's no reason to limit the kind of stories we allow ourselves to hear along such narrow parameters.

That being said, if you're interested in more "mundane" alt history, you ought to check out Kim Stanley Robinson's Years of Salt and Rice.  There are some historical figures in that novel, but Robinson limits to them to the people who were born before (or in some cases far away from) the point where "history" diverges.


Title: Re: EP187: Summer in Paris, Light from the Sky
Post by: Talia on February 08, 2009, 11:37:11 PM
I will admit, I wasn't listening closely enough to be sure on one point, which this comment hinges on, so sorry if this is irrelevant.  I didn't catch whether the Napoleon IV was a reinstated anscestor, or if it represented continuous rule since Napoleon Boneparte I.  If it's the latter, then the whole story falls apart.  The chances of any given person being conceived, even the moment of, are so very tiny.  If one's parents end up not getting jiggy with it that night, or even end up doing so a few minutes sooner or later, if she rolls over ten seconds earlier or later afterwards, really the tiniest change to the whole setup that might result in spermatazoan number 423365 getting in instead of spermatozoan number 423478 would tear it all apart.  Extend this to the chances of changes in the life stories of the parents, and the parents' parents, along with countless other factors, and the chances of there being an Adolf Hitler and an Ernest Hemmingway and a Charlie Chaplin and all the other big names who made cameos here are approximately nil, keep the change.  I just can't suspend disbelief enough to imagine that a pretty major change in European history decades before any of the key players were born would have failed to upset that balance.

Wait, what?
NOt sure what you're arguing here. The basic premise of the piece is some descendant of Napoleon goes on to create an anti-semetic reign in the soviet union. Is that so far-fetched? I think not..



Title: Re: EP187: Summer in Paris, Light from the Sky
Post by: Schreiber on February 09, 2009, 01:00:00 AM
I will admit, I wasn't listening closely enough to be sure on one point, which this comment hinges on, so sorry if this is irrelevant.  I didn't catch whether the Napoleon IV was a reinstated anscestor, or if it represented continuous rule since Napoleon Boneparte I.  If it's the latter, then the whole story falls apart.  The chances of any given person being conceived, even the moment of, are so very tiny.  If one's parents end up not getting jiggy with it that night, or even end up doing so a few minutes sooner or later, if she rolls over ten seconds earlier or later afterwards, really the tiniest change to the whole setup that might result in spermatazoan number 423365 getting in instead of spermatozoan number 423478 would tear it all apart.  Extend this to the chances of changes in the life stories of the parents, and the parents' parents, along with countless other factors, and the chances of there being an Adolf Hitler and an Ernest Hemmingway and a Charlie Chaplin and all the other big names who made cameos here are approximately nil, keep the change.  I just can't suspend disbelief enough to imagine that a pretty major change in European history decades before any of the key players were born would have failed to upset that balance.

Wait, what?
NOt sure what you're arguing here. The basic premise of the piece is some descendant of Napoleon goes on to create an anti-semetic reign in the soviet union. Is that so far-fetched? I think not..



It's a delicate point.  What bolddeceiver is saying is that if Scholes had chosen to "start" the point of divergence after Hitler, Chaplin, and Hemingway were born, then history should have stayed the same up to that point, which means no Napoleon IV.  If, on the other hand, the point of divergence happens before these characters are born -and for there to be a Napoleon IV, it would kind of have to- the odds of babies being formed with the exact same DNA as they would have had otherwise is somewhat implausible.

And he's right.  It's a perfectly logical argument.  But the story is still a lot of fun, just the way it is.  Besides, in theory every Universe that could possibly exist does exist, so this Universe just exists alongside the one featuring the people who would be, practically speaking, the characters siblings.

Okay, now I'm dizzy.

P.S.  Sorry if I'm dominating the thread, but the story has got me excited.


Title: Re: EP187: Summer in Paris, Light from the Sky
Post by: deflective on February 09, 2009, 02:35:46 AM
man. i didn't take the warning seriously and was happily listening along when, out of no where, it dropped that whole 'ninety states of the union' thing. i took a deep breath and resigned myself to the implied manifest destiny, but then the story went on to that horrible climax.

Lincon had to 'help canada achieve independence‽ (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Interrobang)' oh please! it was like the plot to a hollywood summer movie with everyone in the world looking to the states for help. so angry! if anything the warning needed to be stronger!

but then i remembered how happy i was to get a new escape pod and couldn't stop smiling. =)


Title: Re: EP187: Summer in Paris, Light from the Sky
Post by: Swamp on February 09, 2009, 08:23:56 AM
Ken Scholes continues to impress me.  I think the best thing about alternate history peices is that it makes me want to become better familiar with actual history.  I am a little bit concerned with how much I wasn't affected by trying to envision a caring, heroic Hitler who fights for freedom, especially of the Jews.  Maybe it's because I'm an optimist, maybe it's because Scholes is brilliant, or maybe it's because I don't have a good enough education in history, maybe I need to be reminded of what the real Adolph Hilter really did and was trying to accomplish, maybe I should read Mein Kampf, and be reminded of how psychotic he really was.


Title: Re: EP187: Summer in Paris, Light from the Sky
Post by: Void Munashii on February 09, 2009, 11:01:21 AM
  I am deeply offended, and cannot beleive Steve would air such a story!

  I CAN NOT STAND Hemingway!

  Actually, I quite liked this story, there just seemed to be a distinct lack of outrage to this tale. I've been a fan of good alternate history since reading the collection "Alternate Generals" back in high school, and this sturck me as good alternate history. As others have said, this is certainly no "Edward Bear" (which certainly falls in my top 5 EP episodes), it is, I think, the best alternate history story that EP has played.

  I've always been fascinated with the idea that some small change can alter a person's destiny forever, and even though there are clearly larger changes in the background of this story, I thought that idea was still put to good use here.

  I still don't like Hemingway though.


Title: Re: EP187: Summer in Paris, Light from the Sky
Post by: DKT on February 09, 2009, 11:41:54 AM
I loved the portrayal of De Gaulle as a bar tender but (and my only negative) I felt the Hemmingway characteristion was a little cliched.

See, I thought that worked because Hemingway himself was such a cliche. ;)


Title: Re: EP187: Summer in Paris, Light from the Sky
Post by: DKT on February 09, 2009, 12:10:49 PM
Nice story, Mr. Scholes, and nice to have you back here Steve. (I'll go visit that other thread in a minute.)

I actually really enjoyed the use of Hemingway and Chaplin in this story and would argue that no, the story would have a much different effect it hadn't included the two of them and Hitler. De Gaulle was a nice touch, but I'm willing to concede that one. Hitler, obviously, because it brings up the whole nature vs. nurture debate.

Hemingway, as I said above, was the quintessential drunken writer and fits perfectly as a loud-mouthed, gun-waving American. Also, he lived in Paris - a bit earlier than I think this story takes place, but it worked well enough for me. When you drop Hemingway and Chaplin in there like that, a lot of the characterization becomes automatic. Chaplin = funny. Hemingway = drunken tough guy/fool. Both of them pretty heartbreaking artists. So it could've been people other than Hemingway and Chaplin, but for me it wouldn't have worked as well, or been as poignant. And when you've already made Adolf Hitler the protagonist, why not go with Hemingway and Chaplin. (Although I would've enjoyed it more if Hemingway had taught Hitler how to strangle pigeons for dinner.)

Okay, aside from the literary games, this one had a pretty good effect on me. I'm seriously looking forward to checking out Scholes' book now...


Title: Re: EP187: Summer in Paris, Light from the Sky
Post by: Zathras on February 09, 2009, 12:31:42 PM
I liked this story.  I really enjoyed the way the alternate timeline was presented.  It wasn't brutal, nor was it abiquous.  Having Hitler run from the rape scene seemed a little heavy handed for me.  I didn't have a problem with him running for the gun, it just seemed like we were supposed to expect him to just run away.

This was a solid episode that I would recommend as a first episode to some of my friends.

As to nature/nuture:  I'm more on the side of nuture, but nature plays a role.


Title: Re: EP187: Summer in Paris, Light from the Sky
Post by: Peter Germany on February 09, 2009, 02:18:35 PM
I'm not sure that if Hitler had stopped at Poland then history would portray him differently.  My Granddad saw first hand what state the death camp prisoners were in when his regiment found one of these camps, but it was a good storey which i enjoyed.  I often wonder what might have happened in this had happened or that had not.
This was well done, and i love the thought of Hitler, Hemmigway and Chaplin having 'who can drink the most compitions.'  I'd love to see that!


Title: Re: EP187: Summer in Paris, Light from the Sky
Post by: DKT on February 09, 2009, 02:44:37 PM
Ack! How did I forget to compliment the narration? Alex Wilson did a great job reading this story.


Title: Re: EP187: Summer in Paris, Light from the Sky
Post by: Bdoomed on February 09, 2009, 03:20:22 PM
wow this story was incredible!  Go humanitarian Hitler go!  A very interesting idea, and as to...
Hitler, obviously, because it brings up the whole nature vs. nurture debate.
I dont think it does really...
Hitler in this story is nurtured towards being a humanitarian, however he still retains his nature of being a leader, too bad he wasn't nurtured so....

I dont see why in this alternate history America has to encompass the whole continent... at least i believe that's what the story was saying... the U.S. was all of North and South America no?  Didn't seem to be a point to that... tho that would be pretty bad-ass (and terrifying) for the U.S. to be that big.

and i loved the change in title from Mein Kampf to Unser Kampf :)


Title: Re: EP187: Summer in Paris, Light from the Sky
Post by: Russell Nash on February 09, 2009, 03:25:02 PM
wow this story was incredible!  Go humanitarian Hitler go!  A very interesting idea, and as to...
Hitler, obviously, because it brings up the whole nature vs. nurture debate.
I dont think it does really...
Hitler in this story is nurtured towards being a humanitarian, however he still retains his nature of being a leader, too bad he wasn't nurtured so....

I dont see why in this alternate history America has to encompass the whole continent... at least i believe that's what the story was saying... the U.S. was all of North and South America no?  Didn't seem to be a point to that... tho that would be pretty bad-ass (and terrifying) for the U.S. to be that big.

and i loved the change in title from Mein Kampf to Unser Kampf :)

I think the idea was that with a France that was so strong England couldn't hold on to any of it's colonies and helped the Americans even more than they really did.  France probably also messed with Spain and portugal and that gives you South America. 


Title: Re: EP187: Summer in Paris, Light from the Sky
Post by: godzilla8nj on February 09, 2009, 03:40:48 PM
I just can't suspend disbelief enough to imagine that a pretty major change in European history decades before any of the key players were born would have failed to upset that balance.
It goes beyond European history, since the U.S. encompasses all of North and South America. I agree the story would have been stronger if it restricted itself to the single point of divergence relating to Hitler's father. That all said I still enjoyed the story very much, though I also agree there were a few too many "I know that name!" coincidences.


Title: Re: EP187: Summer in Paris, Light from the Sky
Post by: Poppydragon on February 09, 2009, 03:46:42 PM
I'm not sure that if Hitler had stopped at Poland then history would portray him differently.  My Granddad saw first hand what state the death camp prisoners were in when his regiment found one of these camps...

Stopping at Poland would mean that the death camps and the final solution did not happen. I wasn't meaning to suggest that those atrocities would have been forgiven simply because he did not attack Russia.


Title: Re: EP187: Summer in Paris, Light from the Sky
Post by: deflective on February 09, 2009, 04:01:58 PM
I think the idea was that with a France that was so strong England couldn't hold on to any of it's colonies and helped the Americans even more than they really did.  France probably also messed with Spain and portugal and that gives you South America. 

in that situation we would expect a large independent quebec.

i didn't read this story as having a single point of divergence. it was a similar but different history, two winding paths that go the same direction and touch each other often. so instead of a standard sf alternate history, change one thing and think through what might happen, we get a fantasy alternate reality where larger than life characters can be thrown together in interesting ways.


Title: Re: EP187: Summer in Paris, Light from the Sky
Post by: sburnap on February 09, 2009, 04:55:41 PM
I liked this one a lot.  To me, the interesting question isn't the "nature vs. nurture" debate, but the debate about how important "great men" are in historical events.  I think it is all to easy for us to blame the horrible events of WWII on a small group of people.  In many respects, I think the elevating of Hitler up to ultra-devilhood allows us to be far too comfortable about the possibilities of such things happening again.  (And certainly while the Nazis exceeded all or most in scale, there have certainly been many historical incidents that matched the holocaust in evil.)

That's what the story says to me.  Here, it happened with Hitler in Germany, but it could have happened in France, and by extension *anywhere* and thus we can't sit back in the comfort that Hitler was an evil unlike any before and therefore unlike we'll see again.


Title: Re: EP187: Summer in Paris, Light from the Sky
Post by: Yargling on February 09, 2009, 06:10:31 PM
Hi, I'm new to the comments forums here, and only found escape pod about a month ago. Ever since I've been working on catching up (although I listened to 185, 186, and 187 without getting that far in sequence). Anywho, on to my newbie comments:

I enjoyed this work, mostly. The sheer impact of Hitler, arguably the nearest humans have come to satan on Earth, being shown as what might have happened if the world was subtly altered. Hitler, like everyone else, was the product of his genes, his environment, and frankly, random luck (bad luck). This tale does what good sci-fi fiction is meant to do - shake up our views of either the present or the future. It begs us to wonder if, under the same conditions, would we be as evil as Hitler? Did he have the ability for good as well what he did?

Of course, we'll never get a real answer to these questions, but if it gets us thinking about how world events affect both us and others, its worth it.

Onto the bits I didn't like: The rape bit was, to me, highly distressing to me, but that's more my own sensibilities than the authors fault, and Steve did give us fair warning. However, another section I didn't like was revisions of the American-continents history, as well the revisions of European history post World War I - after that war, most of Europe was democratic, or at least no longer monarch-based governments. It seemed to me the scale of the revisions dulled the impact of the Hitler change. It could easily have been done in the real 1930's France, and still have been diverged from the real history with ease.


Title: Re: EP187: Summer in Paris, Light from the Sky
Post by: ieDaddy on February 09, 2009, 06:48:16 PM
So, I listened to this particular story while walking my dog.  It was a nice surprise to spin through my podcasts and see the EP was back.

That being said - I just really did not like this story.  It wasn't the Hitler thing, nor was it the De Gaulle thing - at least not exactly.  Maybe my brain already has these characters set in my mind but I found them to be fairly cardboard and one dimensional and getting them to move in these different directions just felt a wee bit forced.  I felt like the alternate history angle was used as a crutch for character development and actually ended up being more of a distraction than anything else.

If these characters had just been named Tom, Dick and Harry and it was a normal story set in an alternate history, I think more people might be saying that the story was flat or one dimensional.  I think it fell flat on the whole "Hey, this is the Good Hitler." thing.


Title: Re: EP187: Summer in Paris, Light from the Sky
Post by: Listener on February 09, 2009, 07:08:09 PM
Once Steve said "Israeli journal", I knew what this story would be about.

The reading was fine, except I didn't like the special effects (at least used sparingly) and the shifting of pauses to indicate confusion/rising action got annoying after a while (during the climax/denouement).

My favorite part of alternate history is "where is the change"? Or, how far back does it go? It started with Hitler's father being less of an asshat. Then it became the Napoleonic line. Then the Russian pogroms affecting Imperial France. Then the US achieving independence in the 1860s.

Knowing that this was alternate history allowed me to put aside my preconceptions of Hitler the person and look at him as Hitler the fictional character, much in the same way I looked at Niels Bohr in "NB and the Sleeping Dane", which ran (I think) last year on EP.

As a Jew, I've had HOLOCAUST = BAD AND HITLER = EVIL pounded into my head since I was a kid. I started resisting it when I was 17 or so. I've never seen Schindler's List. I avoid Holocaust museums. I know those who ignore history are doomed to repeat it; well, I know history, so stop reminding me of it.

The heavy-handed-est part of this story, for me, was Hitler's dream. I don't think we needed that at all.

Overall very strong.


Title: Re: EP187: Summer in Paris, Light from the Sky
Post by: contra on February 09, 2009, 07:47:32 PM
Interesting storiy.  I really liked it.  I agree that it's probably th best alternate history EP yet.  It was worth the wait. 
I was listening to it at work on my lunch hour.  I starded sitting back looknig out over the snow, I ended it if the edge of my seat totally taken into this other world.

There could be a single point of divergance from which we take everything differently, like the French revolution happening differently (or the counter revolution); or different some people going out to the Americas (though that would have then changed who was born...)


The best touch was the title of the book though.  That small change changes everything.

I accept some people saying that it didn't have to be Hitler, Hemmingway or Chaplin; I too thought this at first, but I think it did matter.  We had to understand these characters at least to a degree.  We had to know their potential, especially in a short story format.  We had to know how far they would go for their beliefs.
We all know how far Hitler went.
So all that weight is always hanging over the story.  And from the moment you look curiously at finding out who the main character was, you are applying all of this to him.  And from how it was written, the character seemed to be feeling it.  We learned it was his father hanging over him; but as we came in, it felt as if it was the baggage we carried in that weighed him down.  From the start he is acting like someone who has a missed destiny and the universe is passing them by.  We know where they should be, and what they should be doing.

As the story went on, in my mind anyway, from the original intro of Hitler in Paris with Stormtroopers all around him, a parade, people on the streets and war; these all fade away until you are left with an older man in his 50's, all alone.
For me this was a very powerful moment that couldn't have worked with any other character


Title: Re: EP187: Summer in Paris, Light from the Sky
Post by: Darwinist on February 09, 2009, 08:21:53 PM
Ack! How did I forget to compliment the narration? Alex Wilson did a great job reading this story.

Yeah, great reading.   I loved this story.  It had me transfixed the whole time.  Glad to have EP back. 


Title: Re: EP187: Summer in Paris, Light from the Sky
Post by: stePH on February 09, 2009, 08:32:42 PM
I enjoyed the story mostly for having Hitler, Chaplin, and Hemingway drinking together in the bar.  I particularly like historical spec-fic that involves real people doing fictional things in our timeline, rather than in alternate history.  My favorite of this type is Robert Anton Wilson's Masks of the Illuminati, which kicks off with Albert Einstein and James Joyce drinking in a Zurich tavern in (I think) 1910, when a terrified Englishman barges in and tells them about how he ran afoul of Aleister Crowley.  Another is Morris West's The World is Made of Glass which speculates on an obscure note in Carl Jung's journals about a woman who came to him with "a confession".


Title: Re: EP187: Summer in Paris, Light from the Sky
Post by: Yargling on February 10, 2009, 03:34:07 AM
I accept some people saying that it didn't have to be Hitler, Hemmingway or Chaplin; I too thought this at first, but I think it did matter.  We had to understand these characters at least to a degree.  We had to know their potential, especially in a short story format.  We had to know how far they would go for their beliefs.
We all know how far Hitler went.

Agreed - some random Tom, Dick, or Harry would have required way too much dialog explaining their history and so forth. With Hitler, everyone knows who he was, and what he did. In essence, it needs Hitler to make the story work.


Title: Re: EP187: Summer in Paris, Light from the Sky
Post by: izzardfan on February 10, 2009, 05:14:22 AM
I was fascinated by the years this Hitler had that ours did not... the years after our Hitler died.  It was one thing to have a different attitude and outlook on life, but to have an old age and children... I found myself musing, "Here's what our Hitler missed out on" and being happy that this Hitler was able to cherish those moments.


Title: Re: EP187: Summer in Paris, Light from the Sky
Post by: Sylvan on February 10, 2009, 06:53:18 AM
I thought I'd post this here, instead of just on the opening comment page.

Evil, it would seem, rises from circumstance: that is the lesson of this excellent story.  It's something we've heard before.  What makes this so memorable, I think, is the very nature of the characters through which the idea is conveyed.  As Steve said, Hitler is very much the Devil and deservedly so.

But to see a "what if" and ponder other evils -a French Empire led by the 4th Bonaparte and circumstances in Russia driving out the Jews- nicely demonstrate that much of what contributes to evil -and good- arises from our surroundings.  We are mirrors to our experiences, times, friends, families, cultures, and surroundings:  our evils and goods may very well not be rooted within our souls but lie somewhere beyond us where we cannot so easily see or grasp.

A beautifully ponderous contemplation, indeed.

Thoughts?

Yours,
Sylvan (Dave)


Title: Re: EP187: Summer in Paris, Light from the Sky
Post by: unoriginalname38 on February 10, 2009, 10:16:07 AM
I really enjoyed this one. Although the story is very different, it humanises Hitler in a similar way to Downfall/Der Untergang. That is, IMHO, a good thing. Unfortunately, the capacity for evil is a part of the human condition. I think there's a real risk in allowing history to repeat itself if we allow ourselves to consider Hitler an aberration; he's joined by too many Stalins, Pol Pots and so on for us to remove it from consideration. Summer in Paris, Light from the Sky is an eloquent restatement of the results of Zimbardo's Stanford prison experiment.

Can we assume that Godwin's Law doesn't apply for this discussion?

xD.


Title: Re: EP187: Summer in Paris, Light from the Sky
Post by: sirana on February 10, 2009, 10:48:01 AM
Wow, a feelgood story about Hitler. Who thought it possible...

I liked the story. I enjoy alternate history and this one was done very well imho. The characters were nice variations on their real counterparts and I think it gave a strong enough argument for the complete difference of the Hitler this story painted and the real one.
I think the quotes form various books were the best part of the story, they seemed very real.
I do not like rape beeing used just to move the plot along, so that hindered my enjoyment of the story a bit.
Still all in all a good story.


Title: Re: EP187: Summer in Paris, Light from the Sky
Post by: Arkayanon on February 10, 2009, 10:29:52 PM
I really feel like this is a beautiful story.

I remember seeing a video of our Hitler speaking/speeching while I was in middle school and thinking, "I don't speak any German, but I am so there!"  His charisma is undeniable.  Since then I've always wondered what the world could have been like if his charisma had found another direction, one for good. 

This story made me feel something deep within my heart, and few things do.  Maybe it was because it was a story of the love of freedom or perhaps because of the hope that none of us are truly lost to evil as even the worst of us can be seen differently by way of paths not taken.  This is in no way an absolution, this is a work of fiction.

As for the reading, I thought it was done rather well, with a few hiccups here and there noted by others.  Somehow Tesia seemed to come alive as a person you could care about despite being voiced by a man.

Again, beautiful story and one I will listen to again.


Title: Re: EP187: Summer in Paris, Light from the Sky
Post by: Peter Tupper on February 11, 2009, 02:39:02 AM
I just didn't buy this story's premise. The author removes two of the most important influences on Adolf Hitler's life, his distant, harsh father and his experiences in the trenches of WWI (I assume, as there's no mention of an analogous conflict in the story). Without that, is he really Adolf Hitler or just somebody who happened to be named Adolf Hitler? I think that if you do an alternate history story about a known historical figure, but you change details so radically that the person bears only a superficial resemblance, then it isn't really about that figure.

If the story showed this version of Hitler as a leader, putting Hitler's inexplicable charisma to positive ends, that would be interesting, but instead all we get is a depressed wannabe painter. I saw nothing of the Hitler we know. And there was an anti-version of Hitler, he'd be a firebrand and a rabble-rouser, not a writer.

There's also the problem that, even with a saintly father, Hitler would have been brought up in a society with deeply ingrained anti-Semitism, and it would take more than a kiss from a pretty girl to make a dent in that.

(I'm struggling not to make any Springtime for Hitler jokes.)

I'm also not sure what to make of the appearances of Hemingway and Chaplin as bohemians. I expected some gag about little mustaches, as supposedly Hitler copied it from Chaplin.

Good reading, and I'm glad to see EP back on the air, if that's the proper phrase.


Title: Re: EP187: Summer in Paris, Light from the Sky
Post by: sirana on February 11, 2009, 03:19:37 AM
There's also the problem that, even with a saintly father, Hitler would have been brought up in a society with deeply ingrained anti-Semitism, and it would take more than a kiss from a pretty girl to make a dent in that.

Not to come of defensive or anything (I'm German), but which society ca. 1920 had no deeply ingrained anti-Semitism? Not everybody who grew up in that time period in Germany or anywhere else became an anti-Semit. And I think a kiss from a pretty girl (or guy) is the best cure for any Racism you can find...


Title: Re: EP187: Summer in Paris, Light from the Sky
Post by: Yargling on February 11, 2009, 03:20:58 AM
If the story showed this version of Hitler as a leader, putting Hitler's inexplicable charisma to positive ends, that would be interesting, but instead all we get is a depressed wannabe painter. I saw nothing of the Hitler we know. And there was an anti-version of Hitler, he'd be a firebrand and a rabble-rouser, not a writer.

Hitler was a depressive painter, living in various Doss houses over the course of several years, before the first world war. That was what Hitler was before the first war.

To quote from the wikipedia page:
Quote
He struggled as a painter in Vienna, copying scenes from postcards and selling his paintings to merchants and tourists. After being rejected a second time by the Academy of Arts, Hitler ran out of money. In 1909, he lived in a shelter for the homeless.

The difference between this Hitler and the real one seems to be that this Hitler never joined the government to spy on the "National Socialist German Workers’ Party" (the Nazi's in their early days), and hence never ended up joining them. You are right about the apparent lack of WWI experience in the trenches - but the thing is, the idea is that in the alternative Hitler, we're meant to see what he could have been like without those horrifying experiences, including being wounded twice (once in the groin) and experiencing the blinding of mustard gas.

Overall, you do have an interesting point - is this really Hitler? Without these experiences?

There's also the problem that, even with a saintly father, Hitler would have been brought up in a society with deeply ingrained anti-Semitism, and it would take more than a kiss from a pretty girl to make a dent in that.

Not to come of defensive or anything (I'm German), but which society ca. 1920 had no deeply ingrained anti-Semitism? Not everybody who grew up in that time period in Germany or anywhere else became an anti-Semit. And I think a kiss from a pretty girl (or guy) is the best cure for any Racism you can find...

Agreed! Although there was some anti-semitism feeling towards the jews, it wasn't as strong as, say, racial divisions between blacks and whites in America. I don't think any jews where murdered for just being jews pre-brown-shirt provoking. It was prehaps more like the current situation in the UK with immigrants now - a general distrust/dislike of them, and a few out and out attacks by extremist nutters on them.

But yeah...pretty girls cure alot! ;)


Title: Re: EP187: Summer in Paris, Light from the Sky
Post by: Bdoomed on February 11, 2009, 05:02:09 AM
If the story showed this version of Hitler as a leader, putting Hitler's inexplicable charisma to positive ends, that would be interesting, but instead all we get is a depressed wannabe painter.
I completely disagree with you here... in this story yes we see a more cowardly Hitler, but we are told off and on of his future exploits, his charisma showing through after he sparks the revolution.  Actually reminds me of Straw Dogs...


Title: Re: EP187: Summer in Paris, Light from the Sky
Post by: Listener on February 11, 2009, 05:55:58 AM
I just didn't buy this story's premise. The author removes two of the most important influences on Adolf Hitler's life, his distant, harsh father and his experiences in the trenches of WWI (I assume, as there's no mention of an analogous conflict in the story). Without that, is he really Adolf Hitler or just somebody who happened to be named Adolf Hitler? I think that if you do an alternate history story about a known historical figure, but you change details so radically that the person bears only a superficial resemblance, then it isn't really about that figure.

Well, it's not just about the father and WWI being different. The American Revolution being in the 1860s, the French Empire, all the other little details... maybe there never WAS a WWI. I didn't hear anything in the story that indicated there was one.


Title: Re: EP187: Summer in Paris, Light from the Sky
Post by: stePH on February 11, 2009, 09:27:05 AM
Well, it's not just about the father and WWI being different. The American Revolution being in the 1860s, the French Empire, all the other little details... maybe there never WAS a WWI. I didn't hear anything in the story that indicated there was one.

That's one of the things about althistory ... how "alternate" is it?  This one seemed to be a bit more "alt" than Harry Turtledove's civil war/WWI series that started with How Few Remain if what you note is so (I kind of missed the detail about the date of the American Revolution.)


Title: Re: EP187: Summer in Paris, Light from the Sky
Post by: Russell Nash on February 11, 2009, 02:32:29 PM
I think the idea was that with a France that was so strong England couldn't hold on to any of it's colonies and helped the Americans even more than they really did.  France probably also messed with Spain and portugal and that gives you South America. 

in that situation we would expect a large independent quebec.

I see an EU situation happening here.  Quebec is sitting there looking at everyone around them trading without paying any tariffs and says, "can I come in?" 


The American Revolution being in the 1860s,

Had to find the story in print online (http://clarkesworldmagazine.com/scholes_11_07/) and check, but the time of the American Revolution was never stated.  It mentioned Lincoln avoiding a Civil War, which we remember as being 1861-1865.

Quote
Adolf remembered stories about the American Revolution. He'd studied it in school, though his textbooks said little. No one really believed that the young nation of upstarts would live beyond its cradle. But Lincoln averted civil war over slavery and assisted the Canadians in gaining their own independence. Naturally, the grateful northerners joined the Union. And shortly after, the Spanish-American conflict left the United States with an entire continent under its sway.


Title: Re: EP187: Summer in Paris, Light from the Sky
Post by: Ocicat on February 11, 2009, 02:50:10 PM
Agreed! Although there was some anti-semitism feeling towards the jews, it wasn't as strong as, say, racial divisions between blacks and whites in America. I don't think any jews where murdered for just being jews pre-brown-shirt provoking. It was perhaps more like the current situation in the UK with immigrants now - a general distrust/dislike of them, and a few out and out attacks by extremist nutters on them.

Uh, plenty of Jews were killed in Europe for just being jews - going back to the Crusades, the Spanish Inquisition, and random mobs.  That was always a simmering stew pot... sometimes getting killed just because they weren't Christian, and sometimes because they had too much money (Christians weren't allowed to be bankers, so the Jews were). 

Sorry, just couldn't let that statement go unchallenged.


Title: Re: EP187: Summer in Paris, Light from the Sky
Post by: Russell Nash on February 11, 2009, 03:15:07 PM
Agreed! Although there was some anti-semitism feeling towards the jews, it wasn't as strong as, say, racial divisions between blacks and whites in America. I don't think any jews where murdered for just being jews pre-brown-shirt provoking. It was prehaps more like the current situation in the UK with immigrants now - a general distrust/dislike of them, and a few out and out attacks by extremist nutters on them.

Uh, plenty of Jews were killed in Europe for just being jews - going back to the Crusades, the Spanish Inquisition, .  That was always a simmering stew pot... sometimes just because they weren't Christian, and sometimes because they had too much money (Christians weren't allowed to be bankers, so the Jews were). 

Sorry, just couldn't let that statement go unchallenged.

At the same time you had killings of Muslims, Protestants, and Catholics.  You also had these groups killing their own kind for not being good enough at it.  For Millennia religion has included hating and sometimes killing people just because they don't agree with you.


Title: Re: EP187: Summer in Paris, Light from the Sky
Post by: Poppydragon on February 11, 2009, 04:57:32 PM
Agreed! Although there was some anti-semitism feeling towards the jews, it wasn't as strong as, say, racial divisions between blacks and whites in America. I don't think any jews where murdered for just being jews pre-brown-shirt provoking. It was prehaps more like the current situation in the UK with immigrants now - a general distrust/dislike of them, and a few out and out attacks by extremist nutters on them.

Uh, plenty of Jews were killed in Europe for just being jews - going back to the Crusades, the Spanish Inquisition, .  That was always a simmering stew pot... sometimes just because they weren't Christian, and sometimes because they had too much money (Christians weren't allowed to be bankers, so the Jews were). 

Sorry, just couldn't let that statement go unchallenged.

At the same time you had killings of Muslims, Protestants, and Catholics.  You also had these groups killing their own kind for not being good enough at it.  For Millennia religion has included hating and sometimes killing people just because they don't agree with you.

I'd say more that Religion has been used as an excuse for hating and sometimes killing people just because they don't agree with you. Last time I looked most of the major religions (and the lesser ones for that matter) tend to say something along the lines of "be nice, don't kill each other and generally try and get along"... then of course you get the priesthoods.


Title: Re: EP187: Summer in Paris, Light from the Sky
Post by: Raving_Lunatic on February 11, 2009, 04:59:13 PM
Agreed! Although there was some anti-semitism feeling towards the jews, it wasn't as strong as, say, racial divisions between blacks and whites in America. I don't think any jews where murdered for just being jews pre-brown-shirt provoking. It was prehaps more like the current situation in the UK with immigrants now - a general distrust/dislike of them, and a few out and out attacks by extremist nutters on them.

Uh, plenty of Jews were killed in Europe for just being jews - going back to the Crusades, the Spanish Inquisition, .  That was always a simmering stew pot... sometimes just because they weren't Christian, and sometimes because they had too much money (Christians weren't allowed to be bankers, so the Jews were). 

Sorry, just couldn't let that statement go unchallenged.

At the same time you had killings of Muslims, Protestants, and Catholics.  You also had these groups killing their own kind for not being good enough at it.  For Millennia religion has included hating and sometimes killing people just because they don't agree with you.

I'd say more that Religion has been used as an excuse for hating and sometimes killing people just because they don't agree with you. Last time I looked most of the major religions (and the lesser ones for that matter) tend to say something along the lines of "be nice, don't kill each other and generally try and get along"... then of course you get the priesthoods.

yep, but the heretics are for it. according to the old testament I'm to be stoned to death outside the walls of the city.


Title: Re: EP187: Summer in Paris, Light from the Sky
Post by: Arkayanon on February 11, 2009, 06:37:31 PM
I think the idea was that with a France that was so strong England couldn't hold on to any of it's colonies and helped the Americans even more than they really did.  France probably also messed with Spain and portugal and that gives you South America. 

in that situation we would expect a large independent quebec.

I see an EU situation happening here.  Quebec is sitting there looking at everyone around them trading without paying any tariffs and says, "can I come in?" 


The American Revolution being in the 1860s,

Had to find the story in print online (http://clarkesworldmagazine.com/scholes_11_07/) and check, but the time of the American Revolution was never stated.  It mentioned Lincoln avoiding a Civil War, which we remember as being 1861-1865.

Quote
Adolf remembered stories about the American Revolution. He'd studied it in school, though his textbooks said little. No one really believed that the young nation of upstarts would live beyond its cradle. But Lincoln averted civil war over slavery and assisted the Canadians in gaining their own independence. Naturally, the grateful northerners joined the Union. And shortly after, the Spanish-American conflict left the United States with an entire continent under its sway.

I don't think that this necessarily means that the American Revolution occurred in the 1860's.  Note the part, "No one really believed that the young nation of upstarts would live beyond its cradle."  Ninety-odd years is not a long time for a nation to exist if you reckon from the 1770's to the 1860's.  I see this as a European's rather truncated version of American history, really no different than an American's concept of European history.


Title: Re: EP187: Summer in Paris, Light from the Sky
Post by: stePH on February 11, 2009, 08:14:22 PM
At the same time you had killings of Muslims, Protestants, and Catholics.  You also had these groups killing their own kind for not being good enough at it.  For Millennia religion has included hating and sometimes killing people just because they don't agree with you.

Quote from: Tom Lehrer
Oh, the Protestants hate the Catholics
And the Catholics hate the Protestants
And the Hindus hate the Moslems
And everybody hates the Jews
But during National Brotherhood Week
National Brotherhood Week, it's
National Everyone-Smile-At-One-Another-hood-Week
Be nice to people who
Are inferior to you
It's only for a week so have no fear
Be grateful that it doesn't last all year!


Title: Re: EP187: Summer in Paris, Light from the Sky
Post by: Ragtime on February 11, 2009, 10:10:55 PM
Okay, so I'm feeling like the warning in this story was a big red herring to divert attention away from its HUGE flaw, which had absolutely NOTHING to do with the fact that its a story about Adolph Hitler in an alternate timeline where it is never clearly delineated exactly how it diverged.

I am talking about Tesia, who managed to single-handedly hit every single problematic stereotype alive in literature today.

1.  Smurfette.  In a world with numerous characters of all sorts and nationalities and opinions and histories, Tesia was "the girl."  She was the only female in the entire story.  Hemingway believed in fomenting revolution . . . Chaplin had more interest in self-preservation but could be convinced . . . Tesia was the girl.

2.  Manic Pixie Dream Girl.  There is a loner guy expressing no outward signs of being interesting.  He is just standing there being more than twice as old as a really hot girl who runs up and kisses him and wants to be with him.  It may be a nerdy boy fantasy, but its also an old, overused trope which completely pulls me out of a story.  The 19 year old girl thought the 40+ shlumpy guy was really hot and picked him over all the other uninteresting shlumpy guys in their 40s?  Completely unbelievable.

3.  Women in Refrigerators.  In a world where Hemingway is spouting political propaganda and Chaplin is baiting gay-bashers, the only actual horror takes place when the only female in the story gets raped.  And what is the point of the rape?  Why, its not actually about it woman at all.  The point of the rape is the spur the Man (Hitler) to action!  He isn't ready to lead the revolution, but then -- after Tasia's rape -- he's ready to become a hero!

There you have it.  Woman playing role of "woman" (the only one), being attracted to an unattractive guy for no good reason, and then dying (or almost dying) as a plot device to spur the man to action. 

It seems those tropes survive in any timeline.


Title: Re: EP187: Summer in Paris, Light from the Sky
Post by: Peter Tupper on February 11, 2009, 10:33:44 PM

I am talking about Tesia, who managed to single-handedly hit every single problematic stereotype alive in literature today.


Very good points, all, Ragtime


Title: Re: EP187: Summer in Paris, Light from the Sky
Post by: Ocicat on February 11, 2009, 11:23:38 PM
Indeed, Tesia stood out as a really poor plot device.  I didn't mind the random girl kissing him at the beginning - it's Paris, the idea of random "drive-by-kissings" happening there works fine for me.  But for her to later show up and have great feelings for our hero for no reason gave me a scowl.  Would have been better if she was just the kind of girl who liked kissing people to cheer them up, and it meant nothing more to her at all.  And maybe then she could get some real character depth, and eventually become involved with the hero despite the obvious problems, for reasons deeper than "he just looked nice".


Title: Re: EP187: Summer in Paris, Light from the Sky
Post by: Russell Nash on February 12, 2009, 02:55:07 AM
I think the idea was that with a France that was so strong England couldn't hold on to any of it's colonies and helped the Americans even more than they really did.  France probably also messed with Spain and portugal and that gives you South America. 

in that situation we would expect a large independent quebec.

I see an EU situation happening here.  Quebec is sitting there looking at everyone around them trading without paying any tariffs and says, "can I come in?" 


The American Revolution being in the 1860s,

Had to find the story in print online (http://clarkesworldmagazine.com/scholes_11_07/) and check, but the time of the American Revolution was never stated.  It mentioned Lincoln avoiding a Civil War, which we remember as being 1861-1865.

Quote
Adolf remembered stories about the American Revolution. He'd studied it in school, though his textbooks said little. No one really believed that the young nation of upstarts would live beyond its cradle. But Lincoln averted civil war over slavery and assisted the Canadians in gaining their own independence. Naturally, the grateful northerners joined the Union. And shortly after, the Spanish-American conflict left the United States with an entire continent under its sway.

I don't think that this necessarily means that the American Revolution occurred in the 1860's.  Note the part, "No one really believed that the young nation of upstarts would live beyond its cradle."  Ninety-odd years is not a long time for a nation to exist if you reckon from the 1770's to the 1860's.  I see this as a European's rather truncated version of American history, really no different than an American's concept of European history.

My point was that there was nothing in the story to change the time of the American Revolution.  Since the French revolution happened after the American, the American Revolution seems untouched by this story.


Title: Re: EP187: Summer in Paris, Light from the Sky
Post by: Russell Nash on February 12, 2009, 03:00:21 AM
Indeed, Tesia stood out as a really poor plot device.  I didn't mind the random girl kissing him at the beginning - it's Paris, the idea of random "drive-by-kissings" happening there works fine for me.  But for her to later show up and have great feelings for our hero for no reason gave me a scowl.  Would have been better if she was just the kind of girl who liked kissing people to cheer them up, and it meant nothing more to her at all.  And maybe then she could get some real character depth, and eventually become involved with the hero despite the obvious problems, for reasons deeper than "he just looked nice".

But how many guys did she go to looking for her Sugar Daddy before she locked onto Hitler?  There was pretty of time in between for her to be hitting on a hundred different guys.  Maybe she nudged him to that restaurant knowing they wouldn't let her in.  She was playing him the whole time.


Title: Re: EP187: Summer in Paris, Light from the Sky
Post by: Yargling on February 12, 2009, 03:23:44 AM
Agreed! Although there was some anti-semitism feeling towards the jews, it wasn't as strong as, say, racial divisions between blacks and whites in America. I don't think any jews where murdered for just being jews pre-brown-shirt provoking. It was perhaps more like the current situation in the UK with immigrants now - a general distrust/dislike of them, and a few out and out attacks by extremist nutters on them.

Uh, plenty of Jews were killed in Europe for just being jews - going back to the Crusades, the Spanish Inquisition, and random mobs.  That was always a simmering stew pot... sometimes getting killed just because they weren't Christian, and sometimes because they had too much money (Christians weren't allowed to be bankers, so the Jews were). 

Sorry, just couldn't let that statement go unchallenged.

Ok, I wasn't accurate in my wording. In the run up to WWI or WWII.


Title: Re: EP187: Summer in Paris, Light from the Sky
Post by: sirana on February 12, 2009, 03:55:42 AM
I am talking about Tesia, who managed to single-handedly hit every single problematic stereotype alive in literature today.

I agree completely.


Title: Re: EP187: Summer in Paris, Light from the Sky
Post by: Listener on February 12, 2009, 06:08:22 AM
I think the idea was that with a France that was so strong England couldn't hold on to any of it's colonies and helped the Americans even more than they really did.  France probably also messed with Spain and portugal and that gives you South America. 

in that situation we would expect a large independent quebec.

I see an EU situation happening here.  Quebec is sitting there looking at everyone around them trading without paying any tariffs and says, "can I come in?" 


The American Revolution being in the 1860s,

Had to find the story in print online (http://clarkesworldmagazine.com/scholes_11_07/) and check, but the time of the American Revolution was never stated.  It mentioned Lincoln avoiding a Civil War, which we remember as being 1861-1865.

Quote
Adolf remembered stories about the American Revolution. He'd studied it in school, though his textbooks said little. No one really believed that the young nation of upstarts would live beyond its cradle. But Lincoln averted civil war over slavery and assisted the Canadians in gaining their own independence. Naturally, the grateful northerners joined the Union. And shortly after, the Spanish-American conflict left the United States with an entire continent under its sway.

I don't think that this necessarily means that the American Revolution occurred in the 1860's.  Note the part, "No one really believed that the young nation of upstarts would live beyond its cradle."  Ninety-odd years is not a long time for a nation to exist if you reckon from the 1770's to the 1860's.  I see this as a European's rather truncated version of American history, really no different than an American's concept of European history.

I was going on the assumption that if the date wasn't given, it was probably unchanged.

Here's the thing: compared to most of Europe, America is STILL young. (Except for the former Yugoslavian countries, and Czech/Slovakia.) That's what I learned in my Poli Sci classes in college. So going with that worldview, even 90 years is still a young nation.


Title: Re: EP187: Summer in Paris, Light from the Sky
Post by: Ragtime on February 12, 2009, 09:16:14 AM
But how many guys did she go to looking for her Sugar Daddy before she locked onto Hitler?  There was pretty of time in between for her to be hitting on a hundred different guys.  Maybe she nudged him to that restaurant knowing they wouldn't let her in.  She was playing him the whole time.

I'm assuming this is intended sarcastically, as I'm sure that most attractive, fun 19 year olds looking for Sugar Daddies latch on to old, untalented poverty-stricken foreign painters, as soon as they run out of their first choice -- unemployed-30-something-D&D-players-still-living-in-their-parents'-basement.

In a story full of characters, it became clear very early that she was not there to grow and develop, but only to move the plot along.

-----

"Why don't you take it off?" he asked her.

"I don't know," she said, standing on the doorstep of a run-down hotel. "Maybe because I'm only a plot device, and if I remove the patch, I won't be able to get raped, which is what I need to do to move the story forward."


Title: Re: EP187: Summer in Paris, Light from the Sky
Post by: Russell Nash on February 12, 2009, 10:06:10 AM
But how many guys did she go to looking for her Sugar Daddy before she locked onto Hitler?  There was pretty of time in between for her to be hitting on a hundred different guys.  Maybe she nudged him to that restaurant knowing they wouldn't let her in.  She was playing him the whole time.

I'm assuming this is intended sarcastically, as I'm sure that most attractive, fun 19 year olds looking for Sugar Daddies latch on to old, untalented poverty-stricken foreign painters, as soon as they run out of their first choice -- unemployed-30-something-D&D-players-still-living-in-their-parents'-basement.

In a story full of characters, it became clear very early that she was not there to grow and develop, but only to move the plot along.

-----

"Why don't you take it off?" he asked her.

"I don't know," she said, standing on the doorstep of a run-down hotel. "Maybe because I'm only a plot device, and if I remove the patch, I won't be able to get raped, which is what I need to do to move the story forward."

Because she was a Jew the better guys were out of reach.

As far as why she didn't take off the patch (or was it armband), why didn't they take off the yellow star or the pink triangle in our Germany?


Title: Re: EP187: Summer in Paris, Light from the Sky
Post by: Ragtime on February 12, 2009, 12:00:39 PM
But how many guys did she go to looking for her Sugar Daddy before she locked onto Hitler?  There was pretty of time in between for her to be hitting on a hundred different guys.  Maybe she nudged him to that restaurant knowing they wouldn't let her in.  She was playing him the whole time.

I'm assuming this is intended sarcastically, as I'm sure that most attractive, fun 19 year olds looking for Sugar Daddies latch on to old, untalented poverty-stricken foreign painters, as soon as they run out of their first choice -- unemployed-30-something-D&D-players-still-living-in-their-parents'-basement.

In a story full of characters, it became clear very early that she was not there to grow and develop, but only to move the plot along.

-----

"Why don't you take it off?" he asked her.

"I don't know," she said, standing on the doorstep of a run-down hotel. "Maybe because I'm only a plot device, and if I remove the patch, I won't be able to get raped, which is what I need to do to move the story forward."

Because she was a Jew the better guys were out of reach.

As far as why she didn't take off the patch (or was it armband), why didn't they take off the yellow star or the pink triangle in our Germany?

In general, I'm thinking its putting too many rabbits into too many hats to think that she is plotting that an unemployed painter will (a) take care of her? . . . (b) join the cause for Jewish freedom?  She is not "playing him."  We don't really have any facts about her to know what her internal motivations are.  You might as well say that she planned her own rape when she knew he'd be walking by.

In our Germany, there was enforced pressure to wear the Jew-symbols because it was an integrated society, where everyone knew who the Jews were anyway.  If I'm not wearing my armband, the Gentile down the street will know it because we grew up together and he knows I'm Jewish.

The same logic is not applicable to new immigrants from Poland, especially ones who don't appear to have Jewish names (Tesia?) and don't "look Jewish."  It is certainly reasonable to assume she is wearing the armband because its the law, and she isn't expecting to get rounded up and raped because of it. 

But this is an example of free-floating time line problems, more than gender problems.  We don't know how people will act because we don't know how the time lines diverge.  Did Jews have to wear armbands in Poland, too?  Jews were generally protected from the government in the Soviet Union (based on their ethnic Jewishness -- the were often persecuted for other reasons, of course).  Is there something more anti-Jewish about this time line's Russian revolution?  Without knowing what is consistent and what is not, we can only speculate.

Putting everything else aside, though, there is certainly nothing in the text that would lead us to believe that Tesia feels like she's settling based on a lack of better options.


Title: Re: EP187: Summer in Paris, Light from the Sky
Post by: alllie on February 12, 2009, 12:10:58 PM

 Tesia, who managed to single-handedly hit every single problematic stereotype alive in literature today.

1.  Smurfette.  In a world with numerous characters of all sorts and nationalities and opinions and histories, Tesia was "the girl."  She was the only female in the entire story.  Hemingway believed in fomenting revolution . . . Chaplin had more interest in self-preservation but could be convinced . . . Tesia was the girl.

2.  Manic Pixie Dream Girl.  There is a loner guy expressing no outward signs of being interesting.  He is just standing there being more than twice as old as a really hot girl who runs up and kisses him and wants to be with him.  It may be a nerdy boy fantasy, but its also an old, overused trope which completely pulls me out of a story.  The 19 year old girl thought the 40+ shlumpy guy was really hot and picked him over all the other uninteresting shlumpy guys in their 40s?  Completely unbelievable.

3.  Women in Refrigerators.  In a world where Hemingway is spouting political propaganda and Chaplin is baiting gay-bashers, the only actual horror takes place when the only female in the story gets raped.  And what is the point of the rape?  Why, its not actually about it woman at all.  The point of the rape is the spur the Man (Hitler) to action!  He isn't ready to lead the revolution, but then -- after Tasia's rape -- he's ready to become a hero!

There you have it.  Woman playing role of "woman" (the only one), being attracted to an unattractive guy for no good reason, and then dying (or almost dying) as a plot device to spur the man to action. 


All such good points that I no longer enjoy the story. If I hadn't liked Edward Bear I'd be down on Scholes. But I probably didn't notice it at first because so many stories are like that. Even Star Wars where Leia seems only to be there to be plucky and get rescued.  McGuffin.

Now this story reminds me of pictures of certain parts of the world where in every shot there are a hundred guys but never even one woman. Which tells me all I need to know about those parts of the world.



Title: Re: EP187: Summer in Paris, Light from the Sky
Post by: Russell Nash on February 12, 2009, 12:15:18 PM
[snip back and forth about the woman's intentions]

I was never saying she was definitely looking for a sugar daddy, but that she had the time to do it while she wasn't with him.  Also Hitler wasn't a "poverty-stricken painter".  He was someone living off an inheritance who planned on going home and getting a comfortable government job.  Since the persecution would most likely be worst in the capital, maybe she decided coming there was a mistake and a foreigner would be more attractive.

Also in our Europe the Jews were consistently singled out based on appearance and forms of dress, not just by neighbors pointing them out.

All of that being said, the story didn't give us any reason to think she was this clever.


Title: Re: EP187: Summer in Paris, Light from the Sky
Post by: Ragtime on February 12, 2009, 02:41:34 PM
All such good points that I no longer enjoy the story. If I hadn't liked Edward Bear I'd be down on Scholes. But I probably didn't notice it at first because so many stories are like that. Even Star Wars where Leia seems only to be there to be plucky and get rescued.  McGuffin.

Now this story reminds me of pictures of certain parts of the world where in every shot there are a hundred guys but never even one woman. Which tells me all I need to know about those parts of the world.

Well, I certainly don't want you to stop enjoying something that was otherwise enjoyable!  Personally, I WANTED to dislike the story for other reasons -- lack of clarity in the time line, insufficient attention to the "nature" half of the nature/nurture line, Hitler Hitler Hitler, etc. -- back the fact is that I couldn't actually get to the point where I could clarify my thoughts on those matters in my own mind.

Every time I stop to think about them, I get hit between the eyes with "THE SOLE FEMALE CHARACTER WAS UNDEVELOPED, LACKED COHERENT MOTIVATION, AND WAS RAPED AS A PLOT DEVICE FOR A MAN" -- which is a lot like having one of the Harrison Bergeron implants going off in your head every few seconds, and makes you lose your train of thought.

So, I didn't actually get to dislike the story for the reasons I would have liked to, which is even more disappointing than not liking the story to begin with.


Title: Re: EP187: Summer in Paris, Light from the Sky
Post by: Talia on February 12, 2009, 02:45:45 PM
If the genders had all been switched, would you have focused on the sole man in a similar manner?

It seems to me you're implying the story is mysogynist, and I couldn't disagree more. To my mind, its irrelevant that there's only one half-assed female character.



Title: Re: EP187: Summer in Paris, Light from the Sky
Post by: Ragtime on February 12, 2009, 03:41:16 PM
If the genders had all been switched, would you have focused on the sole man in a similar manner?

It would just be weird, because reversed it is not a tired, overused trope, so no writer would fall into that mistake unthinkingly.  They'd have to be aware of what they were doing, and then wouldn't do it.

Do you get offended by all those racist drawings of Caucasians with big lips eating watermelons?  I mean, I guess I would if I saw one, but there just aren't any.  Just like there aren't any Manic Pixie Dream Boys, or all female casts with just one underdeveloped male character.


Title: Re: EP187: Summer in Paris, Light from the Sky
Post by: Talia on February 12, 2009, 04:23:36 PM
If the genders had all been switched, would you have focused on the sole man in a similar manner?

It would just be weird, because reversed it is not a tired, overused trope, so no writer would fall into that mistake unthinkingly.  They'd have to be aware of what they were doing, and then wouldn't do it.

Do you get offended by all those racist drawings of Caucasians with big lips eating watermelons?  I mean, I guess I would if I saw one, but there just aren't any.  Just like there aren't any Manic Pixie Dream Boys, or all female casts with just one underdeveloped male character.

That's not comperable. The only reason such drawings are made are to be racist. in the story, its just a plot device, pure and simple. It's not a story about men and women, its the story of one man in particular and how events have affected him. The woman being attacked thing may be an overrused plot device but I think its still valid for all that.

I'm betting I could find examples of  all-female casts with scant underdeveloped male characters if I looked around. :)


Title: Re: EP187: Summer in Paris, Light from the Sky
Post by: jrderego on February 12, 2009, 04:30:35 PM
I'm betting I could find examples of  all-female casts with scant underdeveloped male characters if I looked around. :)


Search Hint ... http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0000190/


Title: Re: EP187: Summer in Paris, Light from the Sky
Post by: deflective on February 12, 2009, 04:54:25 PM
the points in your original post are absolutely true, Ragtime. i've already talked about the gender thing way too much on these boards so it isn't something that i'll bring up anymore.

that said, it doesn't bug me so much on escape pod. as you just pointed out: it's the constant repetition of a trope that reinforces it. ep does a respectable job of spreading out the stories so you don't get the same thing showing up too much and when a trope is used it's almost never the focus of the story. that and a reasonable amount of balance (a negative female trope in one story will often be matched by a negative male one in another) means that i'll cut individual stories a lot of slack.


Title: Re: EP187: Summer in Paris, Light from the Sky
Post by: sirana on February 12, 2009, 05:14:08 PM
in the story, its just a plot device, pure and simple. It's not a story about men and women, its the story of one man in particular and how events have affected him. The woman being attacked thing may be an overrused plot device but I think its still valid for all that.

As someone who agrees with Ragtime regarding the stereotyps, I don't think that the story is misogynist. But it bugs me that only woman in the story (who would imho be more important both to the story and the protagonist than e.g. Hemmingway) is mainly used as a plot device and not as an independent character.
And while I'm sure it would be possible to find stories where the suffering or death of a male is used to advance the female protagonist, I think we can agree that the opposite happens much more often.

Now there are a lot of reasons for that, from the fact that there are simply more male protagonists in Sci-Fi, to the fact that women have been forced into a more passive role for much of our history, to the fact that there are more male authors in Sci-Fi. And each of these points merits a discussion in itself.

But I do believe it is important to point out these flaws in a story because
1) they are symptoms of an underlying problem which keeps us from achieving a more equal society
2) because they are instances of lazy writing and keep an good story from beeing a better one



Title: Re: EP187: Summer in Paris, Light from the Sky
Post by: alllie on February 12, 2009, 08:04:44 PM
Just like there aren't any Manic Pixie Dream Boys

Isn't that Peter Pan?


Title: Re: EP187: Summer in Paris, Light from the Sky
Post by: Talia on February 12, 2009, 10:41:27 PM
ts merits a discussion in itself.

But I do believe it is important to point out these flaws in a story because
1) they are symptoms of an underlying problem which keeps us from achieving a more equal society
2) because they are instances of lazy writing and keep an good story from beeing a better one



I suppose I just dont see it as a flaw. :)


Title: Re: EP187: Summer in Paris, Light from the Sky
Post by: Ragtime on February 12, 2009, 11:55:10 PM
Just like there aren't any Manic Pixie Dream Boys

Isn't that Peter Pan?

I think he was just looking for a mother substitute -- which I guess is a fine enough motivation for a pre-pubescent boy.  The only real Manic Pixie Dream Boy I could think of was in the movie Bennie and Joon.

Also, one need not conclude that an entire story is misogynistic simply because it uses several misogynistic tropes in it.  It's like if a crime carries the death sentence, you're less likely to want to accuse someone of that crime.  Calling a story "racist" or "misogynistic" is like a death sentence, because if you agree with it, you are not allowed to like it anymore, so people are more likely to make excuses or minimize the offense.  I wouldn't want to paint with that big of a brush. 


Title: Re: EP187: Summer in Paris, Light from the Sky
Post by: AarrowOM on February 13, 2009, 01:05:39 AM
I just listened to EP187 yesterday and I feel rather foolish to post what seems to be a rather banal comment.  Initially I was shocked at the use of Hitler and even more so by the fact that it was republished in Israel.  Regardless, I quickly became intrigued and after listening, I would rate this EP as one of my all-time favorites.

With respect to the dream, I honestly laughed out loud in the car, exclaiming to no one in particular “It’s a trans-multiverse crossover!”  If it isn’t obvious, I had no problem whatsoever with the dream.  :)


Title: Re: EP187: Summer in Paris, Light from the Sky
Post by: Russell Nash on February 13, 2009, 05:09:32 AM
(who would imho be more important both to the story and the protagonist than e.g. Hemmingway)


The only reason I see for Hemmingway being in the story is so Hitler knows where he can easily get a gun.  We know enough about Hemmingway to find it believable that he'd be passed out with a gun in his jacket just when Hitler needs it. 


Title: Re: EP187: Summer in Paris, Light from the Sky
Post by: DKT on February 13, 2009, 12:31:08 PM
(who would imho be more important both to the story and the protagonist than e.g. Hemmingway)


The only reason I see for Hemmingway being in the story is so Hitler knows where he can easily get a gun.  We know enough about Hemmingway to find it believable that he'd be passed out with a gun in his jacket just when Hitler needs it. 

As well as a metaphorical gun. Hemingway also was there to help sow some of the revolutionary seeds inside Hitler's mind.


Title: Re: EP187: Summer in Paris, Light from the Sky
Post by: salimfadhley on February 13, 2009, 01:05:13 PM
I thought this week's story was OK - not great and not awful but somewhere in between.

I like alternative history - or at least stories written in a kind of historical style. I didn't think this really was an example of alt-history (compare with EP 72 - Joe Steel which definitely was ). Alt history should be more than stories which involve historical characters in fictional settings... it should have a grand historical style as if a historian really were looking back on these events.

I also think it's a cliche to use Hitler as the primary character: Philip K Dick and a hundred other SF writers already did that before. He's such an obvious character to use and yet in this story Hitler was not Hitler - it was if he was a totally different Austrian who just happened to have the same name. Where was Hitler's mania - for most of the story he just seemed like a beatnik.

Speaking of Alt-history, I am a big fan of the stuff that Frank Key writes. Frank blends fictional and historical characters in settings which are also a mixture of fact and fantasy. His style reminds me of the best real history often to the point where I am genuinely unsure which details are truth and which are entirely plucked from his imagination.


Title: Re: EP187: Summer in Paris, Light from the Sky
Post by: Russell Nash on February 13, 2009, 02:38:33 PM
I like alternative history - or at least stories written in a kind of historical style. I didn't think this really was an example of alt-history (compare with EP 72 - Joe Steel which definitely was ). Alt history should be more than stories which involve historical characters in fictional settings... it should have a grand historical style as if a historian really were looking back on these events.

I'm jumping on this one quickly. 

Quote from: wikipedia
Alternate history or alternative history (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alternate_history_(fiction)) is a subgenre of speculative fiction (or science fiction) and historical fiction that is set in a world in which history has diverged from the actual history of the world. Alternate history literature asks the question, "What if history had developed differently?"

This story is the definition of Alt-history.  You can say you didn't like it, or it didn't show enough scope or something.  But you can't say it doesn't show a history that is divergent from our own.  Either the French Revolution didn't happen or it was squashed.  That is different from our history.  The entire story is set in a Paris that never was.



Title: Re: EP187: Summer in Paris, Light from the Sky
Post by: salimfadhley on February 14, 2009, 09:56:45 PM
<quote>
But you can't say it doesn't show a history that is divergent from our own.  Either the French Revolution didn't happen or it was squashed.
</quote>

And I didn't say that, did I? The point I was trying to make was that there should be more to alt-history than simply plucking a few famous historical characters and placing them into an a-historical setting.

Part of the joy of alt-history is to take well-known historical people and imagine how they might have acted had they lived in very different circumstances. The situation is changed but the person is essentially the person we know from history. This is why Joe Steel was such a good example of the genre: It asked what if Stalin had been born in America. How might the same destructive mentality have shaped the USA?


Title: Re: EP187: Summer in Paris, Light from the Sky
Post by: Russell Nash on February 15, 2009, 04:36:49 AM
And I didn't say that, did I? The point I was trying to make was that there should be more to alt-history than simply plucking a few famous historical characters and placing them into an a-historical setting.

What you said was:
I like alternative history - or at least stories written in a kind of historical style. I didn't think this really was an example of alt-history (compare with EP 72 - Joe Steel which definitely was ). Alt history should be more than stories which involve historical characters in fictional settings... it should have a grand historical style as if a historian really were looking back on these events.

You claimed it wasn't alt-history.  What you meant to say is, it wasn't done the way you think it should have been done.


See all of the "is it SF?" discussions to understand why this differentiation is being made.


Title: Re: EP187: Summer in Paris, Light from the Sky
Post by: zZzacha on February 15, 2009, 12:28:14 PM
This story was a great brain teaser for me. A very nice telling of how history could be very different, if only.... Or could be very the same, only with different people doing the same aweful things.

Chuck, Ernie, all the characters were great and carried the story well.
As a woman, I never really missed the women in this story. I just started thinking about the lack of women because it was posted here in this thread.
I think that if there were a lot of women in this alternative history story about the artist Adolf Hitler, he would _have_ to be gay. Don't know why, I just think it would change the color of the story.

All in all great story and very well read by Alex Wilson.


Title: Re: EP187: Summer in Paris, Light from the Sky
Post by: stePH on February 15, 2009, 03:14:36 PM
Quote from: salimfadhley
Part of the joy of alt-history is to take well-known historical people and imagine how they might have acted had they lived in very different circumstances. The situation is changed but the person is essentially the person we know from history. This is why Joe Steel was such a good example of the genre: It asked what if Stalin had been born in America. How might the same destructive mentality have shaped the USA?

Actually I find Turtledove's brand of althistory to be kind of lazy.  The timelines of the books I've read still pretty much follow the history we know.  The series that begins with How Few Remain has the South winning the first American Civil War, leading to a second, soon after, but next comes the First World War (the series continues from HFR with the three volumes of "The Great War"; WWI with the sides mixed up a bit).  I haven't read into the "American Empire" series that follows "The Great War" so I can't say for certain whether this trend continues ... but "Joe Steele" pretty much paralleled the career of Russia's Stalin, only in the USA instead of the USSR.

But "Summer in Paris" appears to have had a completely different history from the one we know, only involving a few familiar names.  Yes, the plausability that those people would still exist in this alternate timeline is a stretch, but so is the notion that Stalin would have been the same in the USA as he was in Russia.


Title: Re: EP187: Summer in Paris, Light from the Sky
Post by: Planish on February 15, 2009, 03:41:22 PM
A very interesting piece of alternate history.  I'm not sure that Hitler had to even be in there for the story to be as good as it was.  Of course including him, does draw you in.
I'm pretty sure it was important that it be Hitler. Right away, the author sets himself a challenge, to turn the most unlikely character into a Reluctant Hero. That's what he did with Edward Bear, and what Tolkien did by sending a pair of Hobbits into Morder. It's like a little game with the reader/listener, who then gets to see how well the author pulls it off (or doesn't). If it was a totally made-up character, it may as well have been in our universe of the Nazi Germany, and then it would be, well, boring.

As far as Charlie Chaplin goes, maybe it was something to do with the Toothbrush Moustache (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Toothbrush_mustache) that he and Hitler both wore: and maybe also his characters in The Great Dictator (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Great_Dictator), one of which is a parody of Hitler.
Concerning Hemingway, well, it seems like a Moveable Feast (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A_Moveable_Feast) sort of thing for him to be there. I did, however, keep expecting to hear that the title of the story he wanted Hitler to write was similar to "For Whom the Bell Tolls". Just as well that it didn't happen (at least not in the Escape Pod of our universe).

I love that the French become the new Nazi's.  It goes to show the theory that any nations is susceptible to this kind of take over, I dont think the Germans are the only nation to ever fall into the trap.  Blue-coat/Brown-shirt is a nice turn around.
Yeah, they just lost the war, and therefore the opportunity to write the history. For me, the so-called headscarf ban in France (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Islamic_dress_controversy_in_Europe#France) came immediately to mind. Whatever the practical reasons for it may be, and never mind that it also applies to symbols of other religions, it still smacks of cultural imperialism. (As does Disney, but that's another rant.) "Common national values" and "for their own protection" vs "slippery slope" and all that.


Title: Re: EP187: Summer in Paris, Light from the Sky
Post by: Planish on February 15, 2009, 03:56:22 PM
Oh yeah - I forgot to say I quite enjoyed the story.

Actually I find Turtledove's brand of althistory to be kind of lazy.  The timelines of the books I've read still pretty much follow the history we know.
Even so, I find it it to be a fun read.
Also, "the history we know" didn't have any reptilian invaders (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tosev_timeline) that I recall.

Have you read his Darkness (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harry_Turtledove%27s_Darkness) series? It's sort of an inverted kind of "alternate history". The events are the same, but the world and characters are different. Oh, and technology is replaced by magic. I should not have enjoyed it, but I did.


Title: Re: EP187: Summer in Paris, Light from the Sky
Post by: slic on February 16, 2009, 12:37:03 PM
I enjoyed the story - the reading was excellent!

I've also found alot of the postings thought provoking.

I agree with the arguement that this Hilter isn't really our Hilter.  To me, this is a nature vs nuture story - are people born evil or are they conditioned to it?  This story falls very much on the nuture side.  As such I don't see this as humanizing Hilter.  This is an interesting story about a guy with a familiar name.

Of course, this allowed the author a couple of tongue-in-cheek-inside-jokes type lines "I'm Polish" "Oh we're neighbours" and the odd dream/vision of the mulitverse. 

The story further pushes the nuture/right-time-and-place idea in that Adolf wanted nothing more than to paint, and then a singular event forces him down a path he reluctantly accepts.  I may have my historical figures mixed up, but I'm pretty sure the Hitler of this world had somethig of a megomanical complex, as opposed to the humbleness and modesty of the story version.  Personally, I get worried about people who think they have a "mission" in life.

As for the lack of characterization of Tesia - yup, it's a common problem with shorter stories.  I agree with the others - everyone had a pretty minor definition.  Chaplin, Degaulle (sp?), and even Hemingway were quite 2 dimensional.  They only didn't seem to be because we filled in the gaps with our memories.  I also had suspend some disbelief with bungie cord that these famous nobodies would all be together, but hey it was still good.

What I really enjoyed about the story was the documentary-style/personal perspective back and forth.  The reader did a good job of distinguishing between them.  I think they added a sense of weight to the story as well.

As for the publication in Israel buying the story - makes sense to me in an "ever-vigilent" kind of way.  A reminder that anyone could become the next Hitler.


Title: Re: EP187: Summer in Paris, Light from the Sky
Post by: goatkeeper on February 20, 2009, 03:38:06 AM
but then i remembered how happy i was to get a new escape pod and couldn't stop smiling. =)

Perfect summary for me.


Title: Re: EP187: Summer in Paris, Light from the Sky
Post by: goatkeeper on February 20, 2009, 03:51:09 AM
Also wondering what was up with Steve's recording setup this week.  First time I can remember the guy not sounding pristine.  Bet there's a funny story...

Steve:  "Yah, about that.  So, I was on a small passenger plane to Djibouti when the pilot announced in a panicked voice 'please fasten your safety belts and return your tray tables to their upright positions IMMEDIATELY...we're going down..."


Title: Re: EP187: Summer in Paris, Light from the Sky
Post by: Agies on February 20, 2009, 09:22:03 AM
I liked this story so much that I had to register for the forums. Granted, I've only been listening to EP for about a year but this is one of the best stories I've heard. Thought provoking, exciting, well written and well read (except for the polyphonic special effects). A new favorite that I will definitely share with friends. Glad to see the podcast make a strong comeback.


Title: Re: EP187: Summer in Paris, Light from the Sky
Post by: Listener on February 20, 2009, 11:11:41 AM
Also wondering what was up with Steve's recording setup this week.  First time I can remember the guy not sounding pristine.  Bet there's a funny story...

I can handle it if it's an intro or outro; Rachel had the same issue with Dragon Hunt. But if it's the whole story, then I get cranky.


Title: Re: EP187: Summer in Paris, Light from the Sky
Post by: izzardfan on February 20, 2009, 12:30:28 PM
Also wondering what was up with Steve's recording setup this week.  First time I can remember the guy not sounding pristine.  Bet there's a funny story...

I can handle it if it's an intro or outro; Rachel had the same issue with Dragon Hunt. But if it's the whole story, then I get cranky.

I didn't notice it with Dragon Hunt, but with this one, I thought Steve just had a cold.


Title: Re: EP187: Summer in Paris, Light from the Sky
Post by: Ersatz Coffee on February 24, 2009, 06:05:20 AM
A bit "meh!" for me, this one. I've you're going to radically mess with history I feel you ought to have a little more of interest to say. Yeah, we knew Hitler (like so many despots) had an abusive father, might have been different if he hadn't. But no mention of the other things that forged Hitler's character - his experiences in the trenches of WWI, the poverty, chaos and attempted coups of the twenties, etc. Remember, he was already a pan-German nationalist and rabid antisemite by as early as 1919. Besides, he hardly invented this aspect of German culture/politics - it was a strand that had been brewing for centuries, in a long line going back to Martin Luther and being developed by such 19th century figures as Bernhard Forster.


Title: Re: EP187: Summer in Paris, Light from the Sky
Post by: MiraCheskis on February 28, 2009, 11:09:07 AM
Nature vs Nurture is a false dichotomy; it's BOTH.  See the wiki article regarding it for more details.

I'm still mulling over this one.  I think it's a good story for the point it makes through example, not because it's exceptionally well written or plotted.  I was pretty upset by the rape scene when Adolf ran away, and had to take a break for a while.  I was afraid I wouldn't be able to finish it , but then my partner nudged me to....and I did.  My reaction was much more to the soldier's words and attitudes than to the rape itself.

I've always been a believer that Hitler was more a product of his times and situation than inherently evil.  I blame WWII on the Treaty of Versailles.  It's nice to see a story spun on that very point. 

Nice choice of story.  I enjoyed - definitely worth getting through the hard bit. :)


Title: Re: EP187: Summer in Paris, Light from the Sky
Post by: Loz on March 05, 2009, 03:31:36 PM
I'm not sure I agree, I admit I don't know a lot of the detail, but I think Versaille got Germany as a country into the position it needed to be in to go to war, but it still needed the special brands of unhinged and scheming of the Nazis at the top to kick it off.

I enjoyed the story and the reading. The only bit I found a bit off was when Adolf has momentary visions of how he turned out in our reality, it seemed a little unnecessary. It reminded me of an old Mike Moorcock story I can barely remember in which all the characters were named after some of the worst tyrants in history, from what I can recall that was just juvenalia with the names used for shock value, I think this story had deeper worth.


Title: Re: EP187: Summer in Paris, Light from the Sky
Post by: DarkKnightJRK on March 26, 2009, 01:43:07 PM
Overall, it was a very interesting piece. The girl is a bit of a 1D character, but overall, it creates a hell of a lot of questions to talk about, as this six-page thread shows, and I can't really fault a story that does so. Well, unless it's, like, really really terrible (coughRevolution Timecough) whereas this one rounds out somewhere between "average" and "meh."


Title: Re: EP187: Summer in Paris, Light from the Sky
Post by: SnowsDream on March 29, 2009, 01:35:25 AM
 :D

I'm new here, but I'm gonna say this is my favorite Escape Pod episode to date. I thought the story was amazing with great concepts on what moves us and changes our path. And a great play on the big person vs right moment theory on history. Most of all I just loved the story, the emotions, the type of characters. How they were older men really put it in a different frame of mind for me. I was very amazed. I hope to see more like this. I think it's a perfect example of great short fiction and the potential short fiction has to be amazing.


Jason


Title: Re: EP187: Summer in Paris, Light from the Sky
Post by: yicheng on January 13, 2010, 05:54:31 PM
I liked this story, but then I'm a sucker for alt-history.  Hitler is a particularly interesting character because historically, he seemed like a normal joe until his stint in WWI and afterwards when he got radicalized by the National Socialists.  Other interesting tidbits like Brazil being a state of the USA were pretty neat.

Great person = stop at Poland, at risk of being shouted down I think he could have got away with going into Poland providing he didn't go any further. Equally on the basis of the winner writing history, if he hadn't gone after Russia he would probably have been recorded by history as being great.

Even if Hitler had gone into Russia, many of the initial people he had conquered were actually thankful to be free from Stalin's rule.  His war of annihilation drove many of the potentially friendly (or at least indifferent) Russians and East-Europeans right into Stalin's armies.  I think if he actually treated the Slavic people with any sort decency, he would have had a very good chance of taking out Stalin, or at the very least had friendly territory to fall back to when they got pushed back from Moscow.


Title: Re: EP187: Summer in Paris, Light from the Sky
Post by: Unblinking on April 22, 2010, 12:16:50 PM
Stop me if you've heard this:  Hitler, Hemingway, and Chaplin walk into a bar...
Oh, it's not a joke?

That was the point that really threw me out of the story, when these three famous people from our history just happen to meet at a bar and become the best of friends.  I just couldn't look past it as anything but a plot device.  Hitler as protagonist is an interesting idea, but that just really bugged me.  I still listened to the rest though because I wanted to find out where it was leading.

And the reason for filling the cast with celebrities seems to me in this story to just be to avoid the trouble of actually fleshing out their characters.  Everyone knows Hemingway, so you don't have to bother explaining any further.  Hitler had to be Hitler for the story to convey the story it was trying to convey, but the other celebrities just didn't need to be there.

On that note, it didn't work for me to have history diverge so far back in the past when the story is supposed to be about an alt version of someone who lived long after the split.  Sure, if you want to tell a story about this alternate time period, that's fine, but I just find it implausible that all these celebrities are still existent with the same names.  Much more plausible is that this is not even genetically the same Adolf Hitler from our history, but just another guy with the same name.  After all, presumably there were many other Hitlers in his family tree, and I don't think Adolf was all that uncommon of a name.  But if you go with that interpretation, then the story loses all meaning, so that way of thinking isn't much fun either.

Ragtime was 100% correct about the female character being just a plot device to motivate Hitler and that bugged me.  Especially when he HAPPENS to walk past a rape occurring and that rape HAPPENS to be the only woman he's talked to in recent history.  the occasional stretch of implausibility is okay, but there was an implausability around every corner, it seemed, and it just struck me as lazy for the story to rely on them so heavily.

One little nitpick:  I'm pretty sure that there was an inconsistency in the legend written on the photo.  When I listened to it, I'm pretty sure the caption had one word different when his son read it then when he wrote it at the end of the story.  I could be wrong, I don't really feel like listening again to verify, but if the inconsistency is there, it's a little strange, since it's also the title of the story.



Title: Re: EP187: Summer in Paris, Light from the Sky
Post by: tinroof on April 22, 2010, 03:23:58 PM
Unblinking - Maybe I'm remembering wrong, but I thought the split was simply that Hitler's father had been kind to him the last few years of his life. Hence the glimpse of the other reality, where he specifically mentions his father being a cruel man in that world.


Title: Re: EP187: Summer in Paris, Light from the Sky
Post by: Ocicat on April 22, 2010, 03:29:40 PM
I didn't remember where history diverged here either, but rather than re-listen to the story I skimmed through the comments here:

I think the idea was that with a France that was so strong England couldn't hold on to any of it's colonies and helped the Americans even more than they really did.  France probably also messed with Spain and portugal and that gives you South America. 

in that situation we would expect a large independent quebec.

I see an EU situation happening here.  Quebec is sitting there looking at everyone around them trading without paying any tariffs and says, "can I come in?" 


The American Revolution being in the 1860s,

Had to find the story in print online (http://clarkesworldmagazine.com/scholes_11_07/) and check, but the time of the American Revolution was never stated.  It mentioned Lincoln avoiding a Civil War, which we remember as being 1861-1865.

Quote
Adolf remembered stories about the American Revolution. He'd studied it in school, though his textbooks said little. No one really believed that the young nation of upstarts would live beyond its cradle. But Lincoln averted civil war over slavery and assisted the Canadians in gaining their own independence. Naturally, the grateful northerners joined the Union. And shortly after, the Spanish-American conflict left the United States with an entire continent under its sway.

I don't think that this necessarily means that the American Revolution occurred in the 1860's.  Note the part, "No one really believed that the young nation of upstarts would live beyond its cradle."  Ninety-odd years is not a long time for a nation to exist if you reckon from the 1770's to the 1860's.  I see this as a European's rather truncated version of American history, really no different than an American's concept of European history.


Title: Re: EP187: Summer in Paris, Light from the Sky
Post by: Unblinking on April 23, 2010, 08:28:23 AM
Unblinking - Maybe I'm remembering wrong, but I thought the split was simply that Hitler's father had been kind to him the last few years of his life. Hence the glimpse of the other reality, where he specifically mentions his father being a cruel man in that world.

Napoleon IV was ruling France in the present of this story, so I'm assuming the French Empire continued uninterrupted since Napoleon I's reign in the alternate timeline.  If the first split had been Hitler's father, that would have made much more sense to me.  Splitting the timeline that far back works for me if you're crafting new people in this new timeline, but not if you're reusing people.


Title: Re: EP187: Summer in Paris, Light from the Sky
Post by: tinroof on April 23, 2010, 09:36:45 AM
Aw, man. I managed not to notice that the first time around - I enjoyed the story mainly on the basis that it just took a little tweak early on to make Hitler a better person. Kind of weakens the message if you have to make a whole different western history to do it.


Title: Re: EP187: Summer in Paris, Light from the Sky
Post by: Boggled Coriander on April 23, 2010, 11:12:10 AM
Unblinking - Maybe I'm remembering wrong, but I thought the split was simply that Hitler's father had been kind to him the last few years of his life. Hence the glimpse of the other reality, where he specifically mentions his father being a cruel man in that world.

Napoleon IV was ruling France in the present of this story, so I'm assuming the French Empire continued uninterrupted since Napoleon I's reign in the alternate timeline.  If the first split had been Hitler's father, that would have made much more sense to me.  Splitting the timeline that far back works for me if you're crafting new people in this new timeline, but not if you're reusing people.


Been a while since I listened to this story, so I don't recall if any recent French Empire historical details were given.  But even our own history gives us a sizable discontinuity between Napoleon I's overthrow (1815) and Napoleon III taking power (1852).  Maybe in the story's timeline Napoleon IV took over relatively recently, after another extended period of no Napoleon on the throne?


Title: Re: EP187: Summer in Paris, Light from the Sky
Post by: Unblinking on April 23, 2010, 11:31:21 AM
Unblinking - Maybe I'm remembering wrong, but I thought the split was simply that Hitler's father had been kind to him the last few years of his life. Hence the glimpse of the other reality, where he specifically mentions his father being a cruel man in that world.

Napoleon IV was ruling France in the present of this story, so I'm assuming the French Empire continued uninterrupted since Napoleon I's reign in the alternate timeline.  If the first split had been Hitler's father, that would have made much more sense to me.  Splitting the timeline that far back works for me if you're crafting new people in this new timeline, but not if you're reusing people.


Been a while since I listened to this story, so I don't recall if any recent French Empire historical details were given.  But even our own history gives us a sizable discontinuity between Napoleon I's overthrow (1815) and Napoleon III taking power (1852).  Maybe in the story's timeline Napoleon IV took over relatively recently, after another extended period of no Napoleon on the throne?

That might make sense.  I got the impression that Napoleon's line continued uninterrupted but I don't recall if it explicitly said that or if I just assumed.  In any case, in this timeline the American Civil War was also avoided, which led to the US taking over the rest of the continent, so the changes date back to at least the 1860s.